Channels of Power

Channels of Power: The UN Security Council and U.S. Statecraft in Iraq

Alexander Thompson
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Channels of Power
    Book Description:

    When President George W. Bush launched an invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, he did so without the explicit approval of the Security Council. His father's administration, by contrast, carefully funneled statecraft through the United Nations and achieved Council authorization for the U.S.-led Gulf War in 1991. The history of American policy toward Iraq displays considerable variation in the extent to which policies were conducted through the UN and other international organizations.

    In Channels of Power, Alexander Thompson surveys U.S. policy toward Iraq, starting with the Gulf War, continuing through the interwar years of sanctions and coercive disarmament, and concluding with the 2003 invasion and its long aftermath. He offers a framework for understanding why powerful states often work through international organizations when conducting coercive policies-and why they sometimes choose instead to work alone or with ad hoc coalitions. The conventional wisdom holds that because having legitimacy for their actions is important for normative reasons, states seek multilateral approval.

    Channels of Power offers a rationalist alternative to these standard legitimation arguments, one based on the notion of strategic information transmission: When state actions are endorsed by an independent organization, this sends politically crucial information to the world community, both leaders and their publics, and results in greater international support.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5937-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-15)

    Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990 triggered a two-decade confrontation with the United States entailing various tools of statecraft, including repeated efforts at diplomacy, economic sanctions, coercive weapons inspections, frequent bombing, and two wars. Most of these policies were conducted through the United Nations (UN), with the Security Council taking the lead by facilitating debate, repeatedly condemning Iraq’s behavior, and authorizing actions in response. However, while the Security Council has been politically relevant at every phase, the United States has sometimes chosen to bypass it—instead acting unilaterally or with a “coalition of the willing.” From a high...

    (pp. 16-45)

    Coercion lies at the heart of statecraft. To study statecraft, according to David Baldwin (1985, 9), is to study how policymakers “get others to do what they would otherwise not do.” In short, statecraft is the exercise of power. While the term “coercion” has been employed in various ways, I define it as efforts to convince a target to take a certain course of action—to initiate a new action or to halt an existing one—by imposing or threatening to impose costs. Conceived this way, coercion parallels Thomas Schelling’s (1966) conception of “compellence.”¹

    This book addresses what Schelling (1966,...

    (pp. 46-85)

    With the conclusion of the Cold War, a new set of opportunities presented themselves to U.S. foreign policymakers. The Soviet counterbalance had disappeared, and the world’s lone superpower possessed a newfound ability to wield influence in virtually every corner of the globe—though precisely how it would seize this opportunity was not clear. The international community watched carefully as the United States reassessed its interests and the diplomatic and military strategies that would follow. At the same time, the UN Security Council (UNSC) was at least potentially liberated from its Cold War straightjacket; whether the diminishment of East-West conflict would...

  7. 4 COERCIVE DISARMAMENT: The Interwar Years
    (pp. 86-132)

    Following the sound defeat of Iraq by a military coalition led by the United States and backed by the United Nations, the Security Council imposed a comprehensive peace settlement with Resolution 687, passed on April 3, 1991. The postwar resolution proclaimed the inviolability of the Iraq-Kuwait border, established a UN-monitored demilitarized zone between the countries, and declared Iraq liable for any damages caused by its invasion and occupation. Invoking Chapter VII, it also applied continued pressure on Iraq by renewing the economic sanctions and arms embargo laid out in Resolution 661 (with more humanitarian and civilian exceptions) and by requiring...

  8. 5 THE SECOND IRAQ WAR: Down the UN Path, 2002–2003
    (pp. 133-162)

    Following the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, the international community responded with genuine compassion and an almost uniform desire to punish the groups responsible and any government sponsors. Capturing this sense of solidarity, the French newspaper Le Monde published an editorial two days later whose headline proclaimed “Nous sommes tous américains.” For the first time in its history, NATO invoked Article 5, its collective self-defense provision, and the OAS passed a resolution declaring solidarity with the United States under the Inter-American Treaty on Reciprocal Assistance. The subsequent war against al Qaeda and the Taliban regime...

  9. 6 THE SECOND IRAQ WAR: Bypassing the Security Council
    (pp. 163-203)

    The Second Iraq War began on March 19 (the early morning of March 20 in Iraq) of 2003 with a flurry of cruise missile attacks in and around Baghdad designed to target Iraq’s leadership. Additional air strikes and cruise missiles were used to take out Iraq’s air-defense systems, artillery batteries, and command-and-control centers. The Pentagon had dubbed this a “shock and awe” bombing strategy, design to weaken enemy resolve and dissuade resistance. By the third day of the war, ground forces were moving northward into Iraq from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and a far more substantial air campaign was launched...

    (pp. 204-214)

    Despite potentially costly constraints and the luxury of alternatives, even the most powerful states often entangle their foreign relations in international organizations and otherwise choose to operate multilaterally. This is true even for important international security issues where core national interests are at stake and freedom of action is highly valued. Such behavior presents a puzzle for students of international politics, especially those interested in explaining patterns of statecraft and the underexplored relationship between power and institutions. This book uses the case of the United States and its policies toward Iraq to examine these theoretical and policy issues.

    There is...

    (pp. 215-234)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-254)
  13. Index
    (pp. 255-262)